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Remembering: Mme Henriette Eke

Eke Henriette was the midwifery adviser for UNFPA DRC. She represented and modeled exceptional commitment to UNFPA’s mandate and made a positive impact in the area of maternal health. Henriette’s efforts led to the recognition of midwifery as a separate profession from nursing and a cornerstone for the improvement of maternal and newborn health in the country.

She advised UNFPA Country Office management on design, planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, reporting, advocacy, resource mobilization, and oversight of the midwifery program. She also gave strategic, policy, technical and operational advice and support to national authorities and counterparts on all aspects related to the promotion of the midwifery profession-education, association, and legislation.

Henriette became a midwife because of the exceptional joy on the face of a mother when presented her baby for the first time. Henriette resolved to help many families avoid the pain that she went through after a close family relative died from complications of pregnancy. Henriette was so passionate about midwifery issues. In her words “I chose this profession to contribute to making childbirth a happy event.”

“I made a promise to pregnant mothers and myself-multiply the number of persons with my competencies and values such that all women wherever they are could benefit from quality and skilled care and services before, during and after pregnancy.”

concluded Henriette who has contributed to the pre and in-service training of more than 5,000 midwives working all over the country including in humanitarian settings.

The work of a midwife is not limited to the delivery room. The midwife offers counseling and advice within the communities to women and their families on sexual and reproductive health including family planning. She accompanies the pregnant woman with advice and care. She prepares the delivery plan with the mother, ensures safe childbirth, and offers postnatal care to both mother and baby. Well trained, the midwife can carry out 80 percent of the reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health (RMNCAH) care and services.

According to Henriette, the most important qualities of midwifery are patience, availability, kindness, efficiency and discretion. Anyone aspiring to be a midwife must first love the profession and not base their decision on personal interests. Midwifery is above all a vocation. A total commitment to advance and improve RMNCAH. Without this basis, the best training will never succeed to make one a good midwife. Henriette portrayed all these in her daily actions as confirmed by her colleagues.

Henriette’s supervisor affirmed that in 2011 the national midwifery association of DRC was without active and recognized members. Today, through Henriette’s hard work and dedication and with the support of UNFPA management, the association counts more than 1,000 active members, numerous provincial committees and enjoys great visibility both inside and outside the country. Several partners join forces with UNFPA to support the midwifery profession thanks to Henriette.

One of the most recent efforts of Henriette is the bill for the regulation of the midwifery profession which is currently under study at the national assembly of the DRC. She initiated and conducted several advocacy sessions with influential parliamentarians explaining the importance and advantages of midwives, the role that midwives play in the development of the nation and how and why regulating the midwifery profession will help protect both the midwife and the community.

UNFPA DRC is optimistic that this bill will be voted into law-hence fulfilling one of the last dreams of Henriette.

A pleasant memory that Henriette carried throughout her life and readily shared with friends and close ones was her successful counseling that led to the delivery of a baby girl whom the parents named after her.

Henriette received various distinctions within and outside UNFPA for her contribution to improving RMNCAH.

On the fourth of December in Kinshasa, a solemn ceremony was organized with the support of UNFPA to honor midwives and nurses within the framework of recognition of the year 2020 as the international year of the nurse and midwife decreed by WHO, Henriette’s first daughter received a medal reserved for her mother.

Henriette who died on Friday the 27th of November will be laid to rest today the 5th of December in Kinshasa. UNFPA DRC will deliver a message addressed by Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA to the family during the funeral ceremony.

Henriette’s legacy lives on. May her soul rest in perfect peace.

Sexual and reproductive health services remain critical during COVID-19

IAWG members and partners are producing clinical and programmatic guidance, assessments, policy papers, and statements to ensure continued prioritization of sexual and reproductive health and rights throughout COVID-19 response in humanitarian settings.